NorthEast United FC found the equaliser off substitute Idrissa Sylla in the added time to hold ATK Mohun Bagan to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the second Indian Super League (ISL) semifinal at the GMC Stadium, Bambolim on Saturday.
Mohun Bagan led for a greater part of the action thanks to a fine goal from David Williams in the opening half. The two play the second leg of the semifinal at the Fatorda Stadium on Tuesday to decide the finalist.
AS IT HAPPENED
NorthEast, quite uncharacteristically, appeared a bit subdued in the attacking-third as Mohun Bagan's defence did well to contain both the forwards Federico Gallego and Luis Machado well ahead of the striking zone. With striker Deshorn Brown missing the match, NorthEast looked a bit forlorn in attack.
Mohun Bagan made its offensive intent clear from the start by fielding the best attacking options in its XI. Bagan coach Antonio Lopez Habas preferred to rest Spanish central defender Tiri and brought down the versatile Irishman Carl HcHugh in the position to pair with Pritam Kotal, who took the place of an injured Sandesh Jhingan. This helped Habas push three of his foreign recruits – Brazilian Marcelinho, Fijian Roy Krishna and Australian Williams - in the offence to a good effect.
Krishna had a chance in the 24th minute but found the side netting when Javi set him up with a nice through pass. Mohun Bagan breached the NorthEast citadel in the 34th minute which was the result of a fine understanding between Krishna and Williams. Krishna brought down a long floater on top of the NorthEast box and set up Williams with a short square pass. The Australian forward created the space by dislodging his marker with a feint and fired an angular grounder that wrong-footed the NorthEast goalkeeper Subhasish Roy.
NorthEast came close to equalising in the injury-time of the first half but Ashutosh Mehta’s header off a Gallego free-kick went off the crossbar. The equaliser finally came in the added time after NorthEast coach Khalid Jamil introduced Guinean forward Idrissa Sylla, who found the net from a Machado cross with a spectacular header.
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